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Moms Talk: Do Vaccines Increase the Chances of Autism?

The decade-long debate still concerns parents of young children—should they listen to their doctors, leave time between shots or not vaccinate at all?

Immunizations used to just be something routinely scheduled for every child and viewed as normal doctor’s appointments during the first few years.

But over the last few years, autism spectrum disorders started to rise, and some said there was a link between vaccines and the emergence of symptoms. 

It’s hard not to wonder if vaccines are causing autism. Most symptoms of a spectrum disorder tend to surface right around the time children are scheduled for their vaccines.

For parent Penny Dean, a former employee with the city of Milpitas, she began noticing her second child became more withdrawn six months after a series of routine vaccinations.

Tyler, now 18 years old, has the first known case of autism in the family lineage. And her advice to other moms is to space out the vaccinations.

"So when it's time for that shot," she said, "you don't need to get all those shots right away," especially when the kid is not going immediately into school.

Make an appointment with the doctor to go back in a month, she said. 

Even though the link between autism and vaccines is unclear, parents may still seem a little hesitant about the overwhelming schedule of vaccines during the first few years of their children’s lives. A popular option is to spread out the vaccines, as Dean suggests, as they are usually given as combination shots or two or three at a time.

Yet research now shows that children who receive spaced out vaccines are just as likely to be diagnosed with autism compared with children who received them on time or not at all. 

For parents who prefer not to vaccinate at all, the most important thing to consider is if the diseases the vaccines are designed to prevent are worse than an autism spectrum disorder.

Polio, measles, mumps, rubella and meningitis are just some of the debilitating diseases that vaccines protect our children from. These diseases are hard to treat and can be lethal.

In my opinion, I think the benefits of vaccines outweigh the risks. And even though the research says vaccines don’t cause autism, you still need to find a way to be comfortable with your decision to vaccinate your children.

I work as a behavioral aide for autistic children and see the ups and the downs of having a child on the spectrum. While it's stressful and heartbreaking to work with children who in some aspects of their lives will never be quite how their parents had hoped, I also get to see firsthand the joy they bring their families.

If I had to choose, I would rather have a child on the autism spectrum than to lose him or her to a preventable disease for which I chose not to have them vaccinated.

*The debate started in 1998, after an article published in a popular British Medical Journal that showed a direct correlation between autism and the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR). After several researchers tried to replicate the findings unsuccessfully, it has been discovered that the lead author of the study had manipulated evidence, and the findings were declared fraudulent in January of this year.

Tracey April 20, 2011 at 12:54 AM
If vaccines are the cause of ASD, then our entire generation should be on the spectrum. The vaccinations we received as kids contained a much higher level of mercury than those used today. I think it's more related to the age of the child when s/he begins showing signs of Autism disorders causing people to think, "Hey - Junior just got his MMR shot, now he's repressing... it must be related!" Many disorders tend to show themselves at certain ages. For example: schizophrenia and bipolar disorder surface most often in young adults, usually college-aged. ADHD usually tears its ugly head around the time a child is kindergarten/pre-k aged. Maybe Autism is one of those things that appears at a certain developmental stage, in this case toddlerhood. Just my own theory. And yes, I have 2 kids on different ends of the spectrum.
Natasha April 20, 2011 at 02:28 AM
Tracey, I have 3 kids on the spectrum as well. Until I saw the regression in my youngest child I would totally agree with you. I cannot look at my other two children and see any clear connection. But my youngest sufferred immune system reactions after every round of vaccinations. Round one: eczema / food allergies. Round two: allergic enteritis & projectile vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, rapid head growth. Round Three: asthma. Round Four: rash from vaccine like it says could happen on the consent form, then he gradually stopped talking with 3 months. He was 2 years old, and had over 150 words. He was pointing, playing, developping well and happy. None of the reactions happened over night, I would say within 2 weeks to a month. We just got shuffled from one specialist to another and no one saw that everything had to do with his immune system. It's so sad to look back at it now. So, I guess what I want to say that it's a very individual thing. Not everyone prone to cancer or heart disease gets it, not everyone prone to autism gets it either. Vaccines, I now believe, can be a trigger of autism.
Jennifer Ress Bush April 20, 2011 at 03:19 AM
Thank you for writing about this topic and providing another opportunity to educate. Vaccines do not cause autism. Period. Spacing out vaccines only leaves children succeptible to preventable diseases for longer. "For parents who prefer not to vaccinate at all, the most important thing to consider is if the diseases the vaccines are designed to prevent are worse than an autism spectrum disorder." This is not the most important question, and one that is impossible to answer. Vaccination is a public health responsibility. It is not just about an individual's choice. I've written about this here: http://www.wantapeanut.com/2011/01/one-more-voice-for-vaccination.html I also recommend The Panic Virus by Seth Mnookin and http://www.thinkingautism.com
victor pavlovic April 20, 2011 at 12:27 PM
Tracy, the only problem with what you say about autism being age related is that it didn't exist before the 1930's, about the same time vaccines were introduced. There are over 90 study's linking just one ingredient in a vaccine to brain damage, so now how could you not at least think maybe this is what is causing autism in my kids? for example if your child gets stung by a bee on its forehead and you see it as it happens, and then develops redness and swelling immediately afterwords, would you say, OH MY I wonder why he has such a big red bump on his forehead? come on!
victor pavlovic April 20, 2011 at 02:20 PM
Jennifer, if it is a public health responsibility, then shouldn't it be the same as to make these vaccines safe? Isn't this a public health responsibility? What do you think we are talking about here? as far as the book you read, and the author you are talking about doesn't have a clue when confronted, he has no credentials and yet you are considering him an expert. Try reading the book, Vaccine Epidemic.
neil webb April 20, 2011 at 03:32 PM
I am a father of three kids the eldest is on the spectrum and two youngest are for want of a better word typical children. All three were vaccinated at recommended age and yet only one has autism. I believe as Natasha seems to that people/families may carry the gene,tendency, disorder however you would like to characterize the condition and that within the lives of these people there is a trauma within the system be it a reaction a vaccine, Febrile convulsions/febrile fits infectious disease, heavy metals, solvents, diesel exhaust, PCBs, phthalates and phenols used in plastic products, pesticides, brominated flame retardants, alcohol, smoking, illicit drugs or even problems within the womb... which is why there is such varied debate on the cause of autism I am sure that whatever caused the autism to be triggered within our families is there to be discovered I'm sure. But if you look within the files you will see one thing to be true fundamentally the condition starts with the same throughout (and before anyone jumps on that i mean the basic functionality of the early onset, as different treatments and severity will cause differences between each case from the earliest intervention) So as for whether the vaccines can cause autism....I don't think so. Can it trigger it ...in some cases definitely.
victor pavlovic April 20, 2011 at 04:31 PM
Neil, if you say that the children are carrying the gene, then where was this gene before the 1930's? you can't have a genetic epidemic, never heard of it. If we are in the midst of a genetic epidemic from generation to generation then we have a bigger problem such as genetic mutations, and what is causing that and what will it cause in the future in reference to man made epidemics, since they are not positive mutations to benefit mankind.
Kelly McBride April 20, 2011 at 06:05 PM
Wow! What a great debate! Thanks for all the passionate comments! I would just like to point out it's not that autism didn't exist before the 1930's, it just wasn't a formal diagnosis until then. It's believed that most children who had autistic symptoms before Autism was included in the DSM (Diagnostics and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders) were grouped into schizophrenic disorders or other types of developmental delays depending on their symptoms. Autism was not a formal diagnosis until the 1980 DSM-III. It has been rumored that Aspergers will be illiminated in the upcoming DSM-V, and all autistic diagnosis will be in regards to what part of the spectrum they are on. Here is some more background info if you are interested! http://www.theautismeducationsite.com/2010/06/11/history-of-autism-in-the-dsm-dsm-i-to-dsm-iv/
victor pavlovic April 20, 2011 at 08:29 PM
Kelly, if it wasn't a formal diagnosis until the 1930's why is it so hard to find autistic adults, for example my age 50 years old? I did not ever run across a person in school or growing up that had autism or any like symptoms, nor did any of the people I've talked to, not even one. My family doctor who is over 80 years old said these symptoms were almost unheard of in his medical school 54 years ago. Today school systems a strained, trying to come up with enough trained teachers, and therapists, not to mention the financial drain it causes to handle the influx of students on the autism spectrum.
Darcy Kendall April 21, 2011 at 12:39 AM
Thimerosal has not been an ingredient in vaccines since 2001, according to the FDA: "Since 2001, all vaccines manufactured for the U.S. market and routinely recommended for children ≤ 6 years of age have contained no thimerosal or only trace amounts (≤ 1 microgram of mercury per dose remaining from the manufacturing process), with the exception of inactivated influenza vaccine." Link: http://www.fda.gov/biologicsbloodvaccines/vaccines/questionsaboutvaccines/ucm070430.htm If thimerosal was the cause of autism, you wouldn't see any more autism cases in children born after 2001, since they were not exposed. And yes, I have a child on the spectrum, but I did not see any link with his vaccination schedule. There clearly is a genetic link in some families with multiple autistic children, but the science isn't there yet to pinpoint all the causes. Support Austism Speaks!
victor pavlovic April 21, 2011 at 03:59 AM
Darcy, thimerosal is not the only cause of autism although there are many study's linking it to the condition. I suggest you read the book, Vaccine Epidemic and please support, Age Of Autism!
Michael McLaughlin April 21, 2011 at 07:17 AM
http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-31727_162-20049118-10391695.html The article in the Journal of Immunotoxicology is entitled "Theoretical aspects of autism: Causes--A review." The author is Helen Ratajczak, surprisingly herself a former senior scientist at a pharmaceutical firm. The following, in my view, best describes the vaccine autism conundrum. /The article goes on to discuss many potential vaccine-related culprits, including the increasing number of vaccines given in a short period of time. "What I have published is highly concentrated on hypersensitivity, Ratajczak told us in an interview, "the body's immune system being thrown out of balance."/ I've learned that many vaccines are never "tested" with a control group making them more or less wing it medicine. I've read about devastations to both boys and girls caused by the recent cancer vaccine. I can't believe any parent of an infant would NOT choose to spread out vaccines for their child. The same goes for a doctor who doesn't advise the spreading out of multiple vaccines. I have 2 sons, 21 and 32. Today I'd wait till they were as close to school age as possible to begin a spread out vaccine program. As before there would be no day care. Finally, I'm super wary of people who say there is absolutely no possible connection between vaccines and autism. Absolutely is always a red flag for parents and life.
neil webb April 21, 2011 at 10:59 AM
hi victor , I think if you look at the research you will find in the years prior the the invention of the vaccine in 1927 that there were reported cases of autism now just because they were labeled as autism does not mean they were not autistic remember that the word autism comes from the Greek word self The term describes conditions in which a person is removed from social interaction. Remember that diagnosis has come a long way since the 1930's in the early parts of our history if you were different,odd or just did not react in the same way as others and could not survive on a day to day basis on your own then the chances are that you were institutionalized and left there without any treatment let alone formal diagnosis. So to say there was no autism before the vaccines is just unfounded as the term was only applied in the 1940's. Cont...
neil webb April 21, 2011 at 10:59 AM
The term Mongolian Idiot was bandied around for years for downs syndrome. Believe me if you were to look over older medical records the diagnosis would have been described more as childhood schizophrenia as they did not understand or could not be bothered to look further into a case that seemed hopeless. Look at how many autistic people have been mis-diagnosed over the years through Ignorance, lack of training or just down right laziness on the behalf of SOME so called experts. Labels have always been changed over the years be through new knowledge of conditions, political correctness or even new discoveries about earlier conditions. So just to say again a little more concisely. You cannot DEFINITIVELY say that autism came about through vaccination in the 1930's. There just isn't the research to fundamentally prove this.
neil webb April 21, 2011 at 11:42 AM
Hi guys its me again...sorry... the term autism was actually first used in 1911 by Eugen Bleuler, a Swiss psychiatrist to refer to ONE group of symptoms of schizophrenia. As i said before the word autism comes from the Greek word autos which means self. The term victor used above here i'm afraid just as good as cancelled out his entire argument the Dr said " these symptoms were ALMOST unheard of in his medical school 54 years ago". There is a documented case that when looked at shows very definite signs of autism (Although not diagnosed as autism) 1747 ( Hugh Blair of Borgue) take a look and see for yourself it does make interesting reading. In this case Hugh is a man of privileged background and as such was not abandoned by his family as it is likely they could afford staff to help. Just a little something to maybe help see other side of the coin...
Jennifer Ress Bush April 21, 2011 at 02:37 PM
Victor, we're going to have to disagree here. There is no credible scientific evidence to support the idea that vaccines cause autism. I'd like to see this time and energy and research money spent on examining other causes or triggers, genetic and environmental.
victor pavlovic April 21, 2011 at 04:52 PM
Jennifer, where is the research that is credible that vaccines don't cause autism? I would like to see the evidence.
victor pavlovic April 21, 2011 at 05:27 PM
Neil, firstly I think everyone on here knows what autism is, and they don't need a background history! I for one was raised by European parents and my native language is very similar to Greek. I see your trying to go back to 1747 and claim that there was the first case of autism although not called that at the time. What you are really saying here is that this man (Hugh Blair of Borgue ) had possibly mercury poisoning, which mimics autism symptoms, don't you know this? You are on here giving us the definition of autism yet, you yourself as you can see have quite a bit to learn. So now as you could see, my argument has not been canceled out, it has been supported by evidence.
victor pavlovic April 21, 2011 at 11:30 PM
Michael, you're definitely correct about people using the words like absolutely no connection between autism and vaccines. My thinking on this they are paid to blog by Big Pharma, and misinform young impressionable people, who are unclear on the matter. I have heard from other people that they have resorted to this tactic, just so they have an opposing view on sites like this, however it is not working and each day that goes by more people are avoiding vaccines until they could prove their safety.
Darcy Kendall April 22, 2011 at 12:14 AM
Didn't see the words "absolutely no possible connection" anywhere in anyone's comments, Victor and Michael. And being paid to blog by Big Pharma? Please. If you were referring to me (don't know for sure that you were), you'd be sadly mistaken. And I rather doubt there are many young impressionable people being misinformed here (or even reading these comments). At any rate, I am also interested in possible environmental causes (pesticides, herbicides, industrial solvents, fire retardants--chemicals now in our bodies and in breastmilk that weren't 100 years ago) in addition to genetics. For example, why are there clusters where the autism rate is much higher (including the Santa Clara Valley)? To blame all autism cases on vaccines--and to claim no one was autistic before the 1930s--is quite short-sighted when there are certainly other factors also involved.
victor pavlovic April 22, 2011 at 01:14 AM
Darcy, I wasn't referring to you, however now that you mentioned it you do sound exactly like the Pharma people. It basically the same words repeated over and over again by vaccine defenders, answer this question for me. Why is it that vaccines are excluded from your extensive lists of possible causes of autism?if they cause cancer, brain damage, immediate death,anaphylactic shock, Encephalopathy, acute complication or sequela, Chronic arthritis, Thrombocytopenic purpura, Vaccine-Strain Measles Viral Infection in an immunodeficient recipient , Paralytic polio, Vaccine-strain polio viral infection, then why is it that you think these vaccines are so safe to inject? What's behind this madness when you say let's look at everything other then the toxins you want people to inject themselves with?
Michael McLaughlin April 22, 2011 at 06:34 AM
Darcy, Ms. Bush said "Vaccines do not cause autism. Period." I think fills the ABSOLUTELY bill. As you now must realize you were short sighted because you looking for ABSOLUTELY. Take heed. I think many people with my view on vaccines and autism are more concerned with the immaturity of a baby's or toddler's immune system and the shock injected vaccines and multiple vaccines could cause. Vaccines are quite a cash cow and are super hyped by big pharma. Google vaccines. Some of the results are real eye openers. One year I think 90 million flu shots were given, the next there was a 30 some million shortage and lo and behold there were fewer cases of the flu. ////// And then there's the new cervical vaccine.///// Dr. Harper also warned that the cervical cancer vaccine was being "over-marketed" and that parents should be warned about the possible risk of severe side effects from the vaccine. She even concluded that the vaccine itself is more dangerous than the cervical cancer it claims to prevent! Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/027196_cancer_cervical_cancer_cancer_vaccine.html#ixzz1KEOQFOrI
Katherine Kohls March 30, 2012 at 04:00 PM
The way we diagnose autism today is very different. I am sure that a great deal of autistic children were diagnosed mr and shipped off to be institutionalized. There maybe an increase too but there would be some new environmental factor that would cause it. Genes or age of the parents can not explain all of the increases. We know that antidepressants and premature and underweight infants have a higher rate of autism. Children who present totally normal except for autistic tendencies need to be studied for environmental causes.

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